For the first time in his NFL career, Andrew Luck is not learning a new offense.
Not that doing so has ever been a hindrance. But not having to do so again is certainly a benefit for the third-year quarterback, who has the luxury of refining what has already been installed.
As result, the Indianapolis Colts’ mandatory minicamp, which ended Thursday, was more a refresher than a crash course.
“Yeah, definitely a different feel. We’re still installing plays in a sense, but everybody’s heard it 25, 30 times now,” Luck said. “You can focus on little adjustments and nuances that you’re not going to be able to get to (during) your first time installing.”
Fortunately for Luck & Co., there isn’t much new to learn, at least not wholesale.
Already well-versed with second-year offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s system, Luck’s main pre-training camp objective is to refamiliarize himself with returning teammates, including wide receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, and develop a chemistry with wideout Hakeem Nicks, a major free-agent acquisition from the New York Giants.
A prominent member of the Giants’ 2012 Super Bowl championship team, Nicks is expected to effectively fill the role vacated by Darrius Heyward-Bey, a free-agent bust last year who is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
To date, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson likes what he’s seen in Nicks, a sixth-year pro who had 1,000-plus receiving yards in 2010 and 2011.
He was also the leading receiver in Super Bowl XLVI with 10 catches for 109 yards.
“Hakeem is a guy that’s always been a gamer,” Grigson said. “He’s always been able to make plays when the ball’s in the air, and that’s what he’s going to do. I think it’s just the little things, the timing (he’s developing with Luck).
“He’s been great for us. He’s really fit in well with the group, and we really like Hakeem.”
If nothing else, the addition of Nicks, coupled with the return of veteran faces in a familiar offense, has set the stage for a potentially huge year for Luck, which, in turn, could translate into a huge year for the Colts.
In 2012, Luck was a rookie on a rebuilding team, surrounded by a cast of fellow rookies and a host of untested second- and third-year players who were learning the complex system of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
By season’s end, the Colts were in the playoffs, and Luck was in the Pro Bowl.
The next year, after Arians became head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Luck and his young supporting cast had to master Hamilton’s new system and do it despite a parade of injuries that took season-ending tolls on tight end Dwayne Allen, running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw, and Wayne.
By season’s end, the Colts were in the second round of the playoffs, and Luck was back in the Pro Bowl.
Although the anticipated return to full health of last year’s injured notables guarantees nothing during the course of an unpredictable NFL season, the fact that Luck and the Colts are actually starting one with continuity and experience is a commodity Luck embraces.
“It definitely provides for a little more in-depth conversations with Pep and (quarterback coach) Clyde (Christensen) and (backup quarterback) Matt (Hasselbeck) and the receivers and tight ends,” Luck said. “‘OK, we know how to run these plays. Here’s where we know when they’re going to work. Here’s where we know that we’ve got to make an adjustment.’
“So definitely (there is) a different feel, and it’s fun. It’s fun for everybody to have a sense of the offense and know where we’re trying to go.”